Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

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Creating Success

What Success Looks Like

I will not rest until I have you holding a Coke, wearing your own shoe, playing a Sega game featuring you, while singing your own song in a new commercial, starring you, broadcast during the Superbowl, in a game that you are winning…

How To Create Success

…and I will not sleep until that happens.

Blink To Win

As kids we’re taught that the way to win a staring contest is to not blink. We’re supposed to keep our eyes open longer than our opponent and not blink. But, have you ever considered that if no one blinks, both players lose? I mean sure, by the technical rules of the game, no one is a winner, but if no one is a winner then, aren’t both players losers? Watch this parody of commentators covering a Staring Contest “event” and then try to tell me both players aren’t losers if neither blinks.

The other night I voluntarily watched, in the theater, Something Borrowed. If you haven’t seen it, you really should. It’s well scripted, with witty dialogue and an outstanding performance by John Krasinksi. There’s a great many themes, but one of the most important, I think, is the the least discussed or acknowledged: The Staring Contest. In the movie, we have two people who want to be together. They deserve one another. They should be together. But, neither has the confidence to express their feelings to the other. This leads to both characters being miserable with other people, instead of being happy with each other. Neither character wanted to blink. Neither wanted to make the first move. Tragic.

Sometimes you have to think about things in a different light. I try to do this all the time. Maybe too much. But, I think I’m on to something in this case. Have you been out with a group of friends when the topic for where to eat comes up? Have you been part of the misery that is, everyone not wanting to make a decision or a recommendation and instead electing to just be agreeable? Painful, right? That’s everyone choosing not to blink.

Blinking takes courage. It holds you accountable. You’re on record as being the person who blinked. Could this be why everyone middle school dances are always portrayed in movies as the girls on one of the gym and the boys on the other, with only a handful of couples in the middle? Rejection is certainly a deterrent from blinking. We fear rejection by default. We’re conditioned to be fearful of it. And why not? It stings.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, he discussed at length, with great examples that our brains are smarter than we think. Our ability to make smart decisions quickly is there, but we’re conditioned not to make decisions quick because when we do they are considered rash and irresponsible. We applaud the person who takes a methodical approach to solving a problem or reaching an answer and we frown upon the person who is quick to arrive at an answer. There’s a litany of data that discusses the psychology of jurors and how even when they know “their answer” they deliberate longer so that they can feel better about the decision they arrive at.

But, the world needs blinkers. We need people are willing to take the lead, make a decision, be bold and go after what they want. Maybe, that’s why I love blinking so much. I love being on the offensive. Ironically, as I kid, I was also pretty awesome at playing the staring contest game. Guess, I’m just lucky!

It’s What You Leave Out

In my all time favorite movie, Almost Famous, there’s a key scene where Russel and William are talking about “the buzz” that’s generated from music and why Russel is in love with “music.”  As he describes, as written by Cameron Crowe:

But… it’s not what you put in, is it?
It’s what you leave out.  Listen to… listen to Marvin Gaye…
A song like “What’s Going On.”  That single “woo” at the end of the second verse – you know that woo – that single “woo.”

That’s what you remember.  The silly things, the little things… there’s only one, and it makes the song.
It’s what you leave out.  That’s rock and roll.

Take a walk with me for just a second…isn’t that the same thing you could say about a great campaign? It’s not what you put in, it’s what you leave out. How many times have you seen a campaign so stuffed with touch-points, collateral, key benefits and reasons to believe that the message…the one element so critical to the campaign, gets lost. And why is that message so critical? Because, the message (and I don’t just mean the copy) is what creates the emotional connection. The message needs to be simple. It needs to be palatable. It needs to be focused.

This is the reason Apple’s ads connect so well with consumers.

Apple fan or not, there’s no denying the power of that ad. The new “add-on” these days is social media. The first thing everyone wants to do is plug-in or bolt-on social media to a campaign. And why not? It’s easy to do and “everyone” is doing it. It’s all the rage, as the kids say! But, before you start adding Facebook, twitter, youTube, Posterous and all the other options out there to your campaign, make sure it’s going to add to the campaign, not take away from it. Sometimes, you might just find, if you want to connect, if you want the buzz, you’re better off leaving it out.

Pouring Your Heart Out

I’m a sucker for the movie Love Actually. It’s in my top 10 list. The writing, directing, acting, cinematography, costumes and the story line always keep me entertained. This is probably my favorite scene from the movie. It’s ballsy, honest and the pure definition of the grand gesture.

Time Is The Most Valuable Currency

Last night I saw, Wall Street – Money Never Sleeps.  I’ve been looking forward to this for some time.  I was a big fan of the original Wall Street movie and was chomping at the bit to see Michael Douglas reprise his role as Gordon Gekko.  I won’t ruin the movie for you and give away secrets, but I will tell you that there is a profound scene in which Gordon Gekko explains that time, not money is the most valuable currency.

Of late, I’ve been thinking the same thing.  If you really think about it, time is the one thing that every day we get less of.  It’s a rapidly depreciating asset that we aren’t even control of.  It’s tragic really that we don’t value something like time more than cars, jewelry, HD TVs and of course money.  All of those and more can easily be added to, replaced and in some cases they can appreciate in value.  Nope, not time.  If you store it, unlike money, you lose it.  If you waste it, you can’t earn it back.  Time is ultimately invaluable.

The president of our agency, Michele Fabrizi, often challenges me and our Sr. leadership staff with an important question.  If you only had 2 hours in a day, how would you spend that time to drive the agency forward.  I won’t give way what I’d do here, but I can tell you that this concept works beyond the borders of our jobs.  If all you had was 2 hours, how would you spend it?  Would you really spend it shopping?  Or watching TV?  Or getting a manicure?  Would you?  I sure hope not, because all of those past times are wasted time.

Give some thought to the people that matter most in your life and the activities that make you happy.  Those are the things worth those valuable 2 hours.  Money, ultimately is insignificant unless you have none or you’re filthy rich.  If you’re in between those two extremes, money is worth less than time.  Why?  Well, if you have no money and all of a sudden have several thousand, you won’t waste it on expensive meals, because you know what it’s like not to have any money.  In effect, you’d treat every dollar very preciously.  At the other end of the spectrum are people like Bill Gates.  They have the luxury of being in complete control of how those 2 hours are spent, because everything is an option.  For you and I, using those two hours to fly to another state would be impossible.  For Bill, it’s possible with a simple phone call.

For all the rest of us in the middle, we spend most of our time chasing money instead of chasing moments.  And I can tell you, from experience, all the money in the world doesn’t help you get back a missed moment.

A highly recommend the movie and recommend you think about the value of time:

It’s Only My Job, It’s Not My Whole Life

“It’s only my job, it’s not my whole life.” Those are the words uttered more like a question than a statement, by Rachel McAdams in the trailer for the movie, Morning Glory. I’m not a Harrison Ford guy or a Diane Keaton fan. I’ve enjoyed Rachel McAdams’ work, but not enough to make me line up to see a movie she’s going to star in. But, I caught this trailer Friday night and was lured in by that line and the subsequent one delivered by Harrison Ford…

“I was never at home, when I was I took every phone call, watching TV out of the corner of my eye, let me tell you how it all turns out, you end up with nothing.”

I love my job. I love my career. I love what I get to do on a daily basis. But, over the last few years I’ve learned that you can’t let your job take over your life. When that happens, you have no life.

The Bucket List

My dad’s been railing on me for months to watch The Bucket List. Well tonight I finally watched it…it’s only been stuck on my tivo for the last 4 months. Of course I started creating my own bucket list, but then something occurred to me.

I don’t want a bucket list. I don’t want a list of things that I should have done when I was younger. I don’t want to be in a situation where I look back on my life with regret and wonder, “why didn’t I do this when I was 25.”

My goal is to not have a bucket list. My goal is to leave no stone unturned as I go through life. I want to knock off my bucket list as I get older, not while I’m staring down the last few days of a life not having worth lived.

As we ring in the new year…as we kick off 2010…as we start making resolutions and goals, stop putting things off. Stop thinking you’ll have time. Stop waiting for maybe some day. Start living the bucket list now.

We Always Chase The Unknown

As I’ve mentioned often, Almost Famous, is probably my all time favorite movie.  The writing, casting, acting, music, story, etc. are all top notch.  Unfortunately, hollywood didn’t let Cameron Crowe show the his version of the movie in theaters.  Thankfully, he opted to release a director’s cut version on DVD.  While there aren’t a great deal of major changes, the subtle nuances make the movie so much better.  But, you’ll have to wait till nearly the end of the movie for the best scene that was added back into the movie.  Right after the band is notified that William’s story for Rolling Stone paints them as a bunch of amateurs struggling with their own success, Jimmy Fallon’s character explains to the band that Russel must deny the story…in denying the story he has to lie.

As Jimmy Fallon explains, the reason he needs to dismiss the story is so the band can hold on to their mystique.  It’s the mystique that keeps the fans interested.  It’s the ambiguity and the unknown that makes them interesting, marketable, and will ultimately make them rich, famous, and successful.

Too often we’re not content with what we have, because the allure of the unknown and the alternative is so seductive.  Think about the last time a recruiter sent you an email or called you about a job.  Did you automatically say no?  Of course not.  You’d be silly not to at least listen to the opportunity.  Even if you are perfectly content in your current job, you’ll always take the call and listen to what the voice on the other end of the phone is saying.  Why?  Because…you already know what you have, but what you don’t know is what you might be missing out on.

Oh yes, we love the known.  Hey, like the old saying goes…the grass is always greener on the other side.  But, as someone who’s speaking from experience, I can tell you, it’s not always greener or better.  Frankly, sometimes it rather sucks.  Yet, despite the number of times I’ve been burned by the allure of the unknown, I always remain open to it. Why?  Because, you never know.  You simply never know when the unknown will be better than what you already have.

I’m finding myself thinking a lot about the unknown lately.  Not with regards to my job though.  For the first time in a long time, I’m completely closed off to the idea of another opportunity.  Not since I was at Fallon, have I found myself in a role where I literally look forward to coming into the office.  The thinking I’ve been doing is much broader and more centered on everything else not named J-O-B.  I’m certainly too young for a mid-life crisis, but I’m definitely old enough to realize that you don’t get too many chances to shake things up and still have enough time to fix it, if you’ve chosen poorly.

2010 is going to be a hell of a year.  It’s going to be a year full of the unknown.  And I plan on chasing it.

Where The Wild Things Are And The Social Media Landscape

If you haven’t seen Where The Wild Things Are and don’t want to read anything about the plot, please skip this post.

I just got back from the 10:00 AM showing of Where The Wild Things Are. It’s GOOD, but not GREAT. As I watched the movie, I couldn’t help but think of the similarities between the story line and what I’m seeing in the social media space. OK, I realize right now you’re thinking, “he’s lost it, what can a children’s story possibly have to do with social media?”

Well, glad you asked. Let me break it down. The island that Max (little boy, with no experience) sails to is inhabited by monsters. The monsters are a dysfunctional group, looking for leadership. Seriously. They believe that Max is the king they’ve been looking for who will solve all of their problems, bring the group of monsters together, and offer ever lasting happiness. I’m not making this up. We later learn that Carol (James Gandolfini’s character), the bullish leader, has killed all the previous kings – because they failed to deliver the goods.

At first, the monsters want to eat Max…that’s just what they do. But, Max tricks them into thinking he:

  1. Was previously a conquerer and king of vikings
  2. Knew magic
  3. Could make their heads explode if he so chose
  4. Would bring them complete happiness

Pretty powerful promises from a kid. But, he delivers his speech in a passionate well-spoken way that has everyone, especially Carol, believing he can deliver the goods.

Think about this situation. We have a kid that’s 1/10 the size of monsters with claws, who could if they chose to kill the kid, buying into the crap he’s shoveling. Starting to sound familiar? You know, familiar as in, “I’ll get you on the first page go Google.”

So, they put Max in charge. Yeap, he’s the king and his first order of business is to “let the wild rumpus start!” That’s followed up by several seemingly good ideas like building a fort, that ultimately completely backfire, frustrate the monsters, and have Carol wanting to kill Max. Yes, kill him. Although, can you blame him after Max sold him a bag of goods, presented himself as an expert, and promised to fix everything…but then failed to do anything he said and was uncovered as not being a former king or expert.

By the end of the movie we learn that everybody knew Max was full of it, but since Carol so passionately believed in Max, they followed suit. This was very “The Emperor’s New Clothes” like. No one wanted to tell the emperor (aka Carol) that he was wrong.

It’s fascinating and of course so similar to the social media landscape today. So called social media experts, claim some type of relevant experience, promise the world, wow the de-facto leader (e.g. CMO, head of marketing, client, conference organizer, etc.), outline a variety of tactical recommendations (e.g. build a fort), but ultimately FAIL to deliver the goods. Maybe, that’s because all of these social media experts are just little kids pretending to be grownups.

Unfortunately, in the real world, we can’t deal with our posers the way Carol would. We can’t eat them.